UNDERSTANDING THAT LABEL ON YOUR DRINK – WHAT DOES 1.3 STDS REALLY MEAN?

While most kiwis have heard about standard drinks, very few of us can explain what they are or why they matter. So, in this article we want to help you become one of the experts when it comes to reading and understanding the standard drinks label on your favourite drink.

Have you seen something like this and wondered what it actually means? As a student we used to use it to work out how much ‘bang we are getting for our buck’ at purchase time but actually this information has a far more important reason for being.

standard-drink-nz

It is telling you how long it is going to take your body to process (or metabolize if you want the technical term) the alcohol that is the bottle or can you’re holding.

For instance, this label on a bottle of beer says 1.3 standard drinks, that means it will take you 1.3 hours to process the alcohol in that one bottle, a bottle of Sav Blanc at a BYO dinner will be more like 7.4 hours if you drink it alone! (FYI this is more than 70% of the weekly recommended number of drinks for a female and 50% for a male in 1 bottle – you can read more about these low risk drinking guidelines here)

But let’s go back a few steps and start with some simple facts that can help you drink smarter:

What is a standard drink?

A standard drink is a drink containing 10g of pure alcohol. It is set at this level because the average healthy human liver can only process approx. 10 g of pure alcohol per hour and there is no way to speed this up. So…..every standard drink, regardless of whether its wine, beer, spirits, RTD or cider, takes 1 hour to process, and your liver can’t process more than one standard drink at a time.

Knowing what a standard drink is and that your body can only process 1 standard drink per hour is the single most important fact you need to know to make smarter drinking regardless of what you drink.

what-is-a-standard-drink
What does a standard drink look like?

A standard drink is not always one glass, can or bottle but it is super easy to find out how many standard drinks you are having by checking the label on the back of every bottle or can of alcohol sold in NZ. It has to be there by law and it will look something like this:

This wine label tells us there are 8 standard drinks in the bottle – so it will take my body 8 hours to process the alcohol if I drink this bottle by myself.

A 12 pack of 5% beers (12x 1.3 stds) on a Saturday night is 15.6 standard drinks or 15.6 hours’ worth of processing. Makes you stop and think doesn’t it!

But what if you don’t have the label in your hand to look at? What if you are being served alcohol by someone else? Here is a quick Standard Drinks guide for you to commit to memory but you might also like to check out our Standard Drinks Calculator:

100ML WINE = 1 STANDARD DRINK

255ML OF 5% BEER OR CIDER = 1 STANDARD DRINKS

30ML SPIRIT = 1 STANDARD DRINK

180ML 7% RTD = 1 STANDARD DRINK

 

Doesn’t a Standard drink change depending on what I drink?

No – the measure of the standard drink is the same regardless of what you’re drinking. Remember – a standard drink is one that contains 10g of pure alcohol. Naturally as the ABV (the strength of the alcohol) goes up the volume of a standard drinks decreases – that is why we can drink 330ml of a 4% beer and only 30ml of a 40% spirit before we hit the 1 standard drink mark, but a standard drink is always 10g of pure alcohol. To see what this looks like in real life – check out the glasses below which all contain 1 Standard drink:

standard-drink-nz

Click here to download a poster for the fridge if you want help remembering this in the future.

Now most of us are unlikely to pour a glass that looks like that so, let’s have a look at how many standard drinks there are in some common drink choices to give you an idea of exactly how much you’re really drinking:

A STANDARD FLUTE OF BUBBLES IN A BAR (150ML) = 1.5 STANDARD DRINKS / 1.5 HOURS TO PROCESS

A LARGE WINE (220ML) = 2.2 STANDARD DRINKS / 2.2 HOURS TO PROCESS

A “PINT” OF 5% BEER (500ML) = 2 STANDARD DRINKS / 2 HOURS TO PROCESS

A 1.8L JUG OF 4% BEER = 5.7 STANDARD DRINKS / 5.7 HOURS TO PROCESS

A DOUBLE BOURBON = 1 STANDARD DRINK / 1 HOUR TO PROCESS

A MOJITO = 2 STANDARD DRINKS / 2 HOURS TO PROCESS

Knowing how much you’re drinking and watching the speed at which you drink is key to lasting a social occasion in style. Remember there is no way to speed the liver up. Water, food, medication, your size etc can make us feel the effects of the alcohol differently but they DON’T speed up the processing of the alcohol itself. The only cure for that is time

So next time you find yourself asking a “how much can I drink” question – stop and think about the size of the drinks you have been having and how many standard drinks that REALLY is.

REMEMBER ITS 1:1 – 1 STANDARD DRINK = 1 HOUR TO PROCESS!

For more tips and practical advice check out our fun, interactive ‘Know your Drink’ module here. You can also use our Standard Drink Calculator or practice pouring a standard drink for yourself on our interactive pour exercise here.

Here’s cheers to checking those labels and drinking smarter NZ

The Alcohol&Me Team